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At the front line…again May 22, 2007

Posted by canvasser in Irish Election 2007, Irish Politics.

Canvassing teams are driven around in a big blue van. The van has a faulty clutch. It sounds like a coffee grinder as it approaches a housing estate. There’s sixteen in the van. No-one is wearing the seat belts. That’s not good. Driver doesn’t usually drive vans.

Canvassing is done in two hour blocs. Four or five times a day. Leafleting is still done in the morning, but it’s face time in the evening. Never after 9 pm. The response then is bad.

The atmosphere at the start of the evening is calm. We’ve been doing this three weeks now. Boiled mint sweets. No chewing gum.

It’s a varied group. Fifty year old hippies working in the public sector. Housewives. Nurses. The odd teacher or two. No one is dressed very neatly. Except for Councillor. Councillor is an old friend of Candidate. Councillor took Candidates seat on the Council and keeps it warm…just in case. Councillor is affable. Mid-thirties-ish. Smart mac. A hat.

Guru directs us. The Guru is an old friend of Candidate. Director of Elections, director of the canvassers. He knows every road in the constituency. Every street. Every lane. Every u-turn. Every cul-de-sac.

Guru is in his late 50s. He can’t conceal his irritation at our lack of knowledge. Irascible is one word. Rude is another. He grunts instructions as to what side of the street to canvass. Then he sits in the van with Driver. They don’t talk, just listen to soft rock on the radio. Guru doesn’t talk to anyone except for Candidate except about his beloved Liverpool. Then he talks. And talks.

Two, sometimes three per street. Or if we want to make an impression all sixteen. But that’s inefficient. Better to break up the group into two or three. The problem there is losing people. Last week it took fifteen minutes before someone remembered one person was missing. Driver had taken us a mile down the road before we turned back. Guru wasn’t happy.

The reception is good. Where people are in. 8 out of 10 houses won’t open the door if they’re more middle class. 6 out of 10 if they’re working class. They know Candidate. Only two people have refused to take a leaflet so far.

People are nice. But most are shy, or bored, or frustrated at having to get up. They come to the door with a baby in their arms and look accusingly at you.

Or the guy who arrives at the door to a fellow canvasser, bathrobe on, dripping wet, straight out of the bath. Why? What made him answer the door?

You get to recognise when someone is in. Even if they don’t answer. The open window. A shape in the kitchen. But the door remains shut.

I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t come out at my house to talk to a canvasser. Why bother? I don’t want to be rude to other parties.

Anyhow. Why wait at home, when you can meet them in the road? At this stage there are lots of other parties out. Groups of us, rivals, circling around the Constituency. Crime must have gone down for the last three weeks, there’s just too many on the streets.

This week we were three houses behind one of Candidates great rivals. Every house someone would come out and start laughing saying “You know your man is just ahead of you”. At least they saw the funny side. We kept going. Guru wasn’t going to let “your man” disrupt the plan.

Avoid the Candidate when he is out with you. Not just out with you, but at the next door. He’s listening in. Just to check what you’re saying. Then if he isn’t caught by someone at his own door he’ll tell you how it should be done. He’s the expert.  Years behind him of this. Nothing personal. He does this to everyone.

It sure sounds personal. Just like Guru.

Best moments? When you see one of Candidate’s leaflets in a window used as a poster. We have proper posters which we drop in to people like that.

Worst moments, perhaps you see another Candidates team, or you have had a bad response on the door, the thought appears “will Candidate get elected?”.

There’s a lot of houses. A lot of streets. Many doors knocked which haven’t been answered. Too many? That’s the question. Was the friendly woman telling you he was a definite Number 1 lying? Was the man who thought some of the other Candidates weren’t doing well just delaying you? Was the person who took the card, nodded and promised their vote old enough to have one? And what about the polls?

One voter says he’d voted for Candidate last time, but wouldn’t now. Why? “I haven’t seen him once in five years.” So what about leaflets? “Yes, I got some”. And local meetings? “Haven’t been”. The obvious response? “How do you know he didn’t call while you were out?”. The better response, “He leaflets personally, and it says on all his literature if you want to contact him here is the number”. Apologies.

But apologies for what? I know Candidate passed this way many times. The voter ends up saying he’s leaving the constituency on Wednesday, so it doesn’t matter.

That’s five minutes of my life I’ll never get back.

Two days to go. Soon it’ll be over.


1. Canvasser stories from previous elections and from this one… | The Cedar Lounge Revolution - January 26, 2020

[…] You’ll find them, here, here, here, here and here. […]


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